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Board of Directors

Independent and experienced

AHA’s board of directors is independently selected to provide a suitable mix of professional experience and expertise to govern all aspect of the company. AHA’s Board comprises seven non-executive, part-time directors, independently selected by a selection committee on the basis of complementary skill sets and appointed by AHA’s members for a four-year term at our Annual General Meeting.

The Board’s primary role is to set and monitor the implementation of the company’s strategic direction, establishing and monitoring the achievement of goals by management.

Our Board’s combined expertise and experience includes:

  • major export markets for livestock and livestock products
  • industry processing and marketing
  • extensive and intensive livestock production
  • industry organisational arrangements
  • government networks, legislation and policy development processes
  • animal health services and their delivery
  • agricultural and medical biotechnology
  • quality systems in animal health
  • strategic, economic and financial management skills.

Our Directors

Ms Sharon Starick
Chair since 2019, Director since 2010

Sharon holds an Honours degree in Agricultural Science. Since 1993, Sharon and her husband have been producing grain and pork in the Mallee region of South Australia. Her extensive knowledge of sustainable primary production was developed through her own on-farm practices and past participation in Mallee Sustainable Farming and the South Australian No-Till Farmers Association.

Through Sharon’s strong interest in policy development and collaboration within Australian agriculture, she currently holds the positions of:

  •   Director of Animal Health Australia
  • Chair of the Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance Program Panel
  • Director of the Grains Research and Development Corporation
  • Director of the Regional Investment Corporation
  • Chair of Rural Business Support

She also has a passion for natural resource management and conservation that is reflected in her past involvement as Chair of the South Australian Murray–Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board and as a member of South Australia’s Natural Resources Management Council, the Australian Landcare Council and the Community Advisory Committee for the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council. As a past director of Land & Water Australia, Sharon has experience in strategic planning for research and extension.

Ms Catherine Cooper
Director since 2018

Catherine is an experienced non-Executive Director having served on approximately 50 boards. After a professional career as a commercial lawyer, Catherine moved into the business world and developed wide knowledge and experience across a broad range of sectors such as agribusiness, food and health, energy, water, science and technology.

Catherine has been involved in start-ups, small to medium enterprises, public and private sectors, Australian Stock Exchange-listed (ASX), and not-for-profit organisations on a national and international basis.

Career highlights include the establishment of national joint venture Rural Bank, being a Telstra Business Woman of the Year finalist – twice, inclusion in an international management program at GE and winning a position in the Australian Institute of Company Director’s ASX Top 200 Chairman’s Mentoring Program. Catherine is an experienced Audit Committee Chair and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Ms Paula Fitzgerald
Director since 2016

Paula Fitzgerald is a senior professional with a background in stakeholder and government relations, policy development and advocacy, communication, regulatory affairs, issues management, membership engagement, and capacity building.

Paula has worked across a diverse stakeholder base and has established trusted networks, both nationally and internationally, to develop and lead local and global teams and to deliver strategies and solutions, particularly across the science and agriculture sectors.

Paula is currently a director of Skills Impact and a member of the Federal Government’s Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee.

Ms Michelle Gorman
Director since 2016

Michelle is the Head of Small Business Lending Product at Westpac. Michelle joined Westpac in 2015 via the inaugural Equilibrium Program – a CEO sponsored initiative that attracts women with executive experience from industries other than banking.

Prior to her move to financial services, Michelle spent nearly 20 years in the food and agriculture sector, predominantly at Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA). Her last role at MLA was General Manager, Industry Systems. Her team’s responsibilities included developing and delivering industry-wide programs that enabled the Australian livestock production and processing sector to maintain world’s best practice, particularly in the areas of food safety, traceability and eating quality. Other highlights during her MLA career included managing the company’s North America office in Washington DC, serving on the NLIS Ltd and AUS-MEAT Ltd Boards and managing the market access program.

During 2003 to 2006 Michelle worked as a lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest farmer and rancher organisation in the United States.

Michelle’s formal qualifications include a Master of Management (MGSM), an MSc in Economic Development and International Trade (University of Reading, UK) and a BSc Agriculture (University of Sydney). She is also a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Ms Renata Paliskis
Director since 2019

Ms Paliskis has extensive knowledge and experience, with 30 years’ experience in the livestock industry, serving across a variety of sectors as a chief executive and company director, on finance and audit committees, and as a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She currently serves as Deputy Chair of the Cattle Industry Funding Scheme Management Committee, and as the Director, Rangelands and Board Support, at the WA Department of Planning Lands and Heritage. She brings to the AHA Board a range of relevant skills and experience, strong knowledge of the livestock sector and valuable connections across Western Australia. Her analytical thinking, passion and commitment have her well-placed to provide strategic direction to AHA into the future.

Dr Len Stephens
Director since 2016

Dr Len Stephens is a veterinarian with PhD training in pathology and microbiology, with extensive experience in research management.
He is a veterinary consultant and Chairman of Australian Seafood Industries Pty Ltd.

His previous positions are:

  • Director – Dairy Australia Ltd (2007 – 2010);
  • Chairman – Australian Wool Exchange, Standards Advisory Committee (2007);
  • Chief Executive Officer – Australian Wool Innovation Ltd (2003 – 2006);
  • General Manager – Meat & Livestock Australia Ltd (1996 – 2003),
  • Southern Program Manager – Meat Research Corporation (1996 – 1998),
  • Director – Victorian Institute of Animal Science (1987 – 1996),
  • Director – Daratech Pty Ltd (1990 – 1995),

Director – Regional Veterinary Laboratory, Bairnsdale, Victoria (1982 – 1987).

Mr Malcolm Letts
Director since 2020

Malcolm Letts is Deputy Director General and Chief Biosecurity Officer in Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. He is a member of the National Biosecurity Committee and chairs the National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network and also chaired a working group on Research and Innovation priorities designed to respond to the recommendations in the IGAB review. He believes technology including social research can be better used to optimise the benefits of investment in biosecurity.

Malcolm has worked with the Queensland Government for 27 years, with the last 20 years in senior executive roles including as Deputy Director-General, Agriculture. He has extensive experience in agricultural policy and industry development and for five years he was also responsible for the trade and investment area in the department.

He has previously been on the Board of Safe Food Production Queensland and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He holds undergraduate qualifications in environmental science and post graduate qualifications in extension.


Page reviewed: 02/12/2020